Father and daughter learning to code on a laptop

in Technology

25 Games, Apps, and Tools For Kids and Parents to Learn Programming

Today’s kids are growing up in a world of video games, apps, and digital tools. This can leave some parents confused when trying to relate to their children regarding anything tech. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools for families who want to code together and make their own apps and games.

If your child is interested in learning programming, check out these 25 resources. Together as a family you can enhance your computer science knowledge and stretch your creative muscles to make something cool.

Scratch

Scratch is a popular tool for parents who want to engage in coding activities with their kids. Developed by MIT, Scratch allows kids to create stories while programming and use coding skills to make games and other interactive media. This website is optimal for children ages 8 to 16 and features multiple step-by-step guides and tutorials for children and parents of all programming experience levels. There is also ScratchJr for students grades K-2.

MIT App Inventor

Another resource created by MIT is the App Inventor, developed with the firm belief that anyone can create the next great app. Parents and kids can work together to create their first app and then follow tutorials to improve it or create other useful apps. More advanced users can troubleshoot problems in the community forums or read through the teacher curricula to take at-home lessons to the next level.   

Tynker

The creators behind Tynker Coding for Kids created resources for families participating in this week’s Hour of Code. The games and building activities range by grade level, with options for kids in grades K-2, 3-5, and 6+. More than 66 million children, parents and educators have tested these games and shared them with others, making Tynker one of the biggest hits for families who want to learn programming in a fun environment.

Puzzlets

Puzzlets by Digital Dream Labs is compatible with most iOS devices and lets kids grades K-2 play games that use the principles of coding to keep them engaged. A few of their top games include: Cork the Volcano, designed to build coding confidence; Abacus Finch, which teaches math concepts; and Swatch Out!, which has an art focus to introduce color theory.

OzoBlockly

Like Scratch, OzoBlockly makes programming more colorful and fun than your standard lines of text code. The biggest difference? Kids can use OzoBlockly to program Evo and Bit, our coding robots. The editor has modes for beginning to advanced skill levels, so kids from 6 to 16 can use it to program their robot’s wheels, lights, sensors, and more. If your family doesn’t have an Evo or Bit handy, don’t despair. You can play ShapeTracer, an OzoBlockly game that lets you program a virtual robot.  

Kodable

Kodable is one of the more comprehensive tools parents can use if they’re specifically looking for computer science lessons. There are more than 70 lessons that are meant to be taught on and off the screen for students in grades K-5. Along with learning the basics of JavaScript, kids will learn about robotics, digital citizenship, and other important technological tools and concepts.

Codemoji

The team at Codemoji created a product meant for students through eighth grade who want to learn the principles of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. While these games are often used in schools, there are also options for parents who want to test the games as well and work through them with their kids. Their social media channels feature a “programming word of the day,” so parents and kids can learn the lingo together in a fun and easy-to-understand way.

Kodu Game Lab

The Kodu Game Lab is actually a product of Microsoft that joins parents and kids in a community to create games related to programming. Available on PC and Xbox, Kodu encourages creativity and strategic problem solving while teaching the basic principles of programming. Founded in 2009, Kodu was even part of the White House Science Fair in 2012.

Codesters

Parents and kids who want to learn Python can explore Codesters for free. While this software is typically made for teachers who need to manage a large class of students, it can also be used by parents who want to follow the progress of their kids as they learn the basics of programming and apply concepts like probability, geometry, and statistics to their creations. Kids can play programming games and learn important math topics along the way.  

CodeCombat

CodeCombat is a great tool for gaming kids who want to navigate mazes, hunt assassins, and discover buried treasure. Most kids forget that they’re even supposed to be learning when they play this game, much less discovering the principles of programming. If your child is nervous about diving into the principles of computer science (or you’re worried about teaching them) consider starting with this game to spark an interest and take the pressure off of learning to code.  

CodeMonkey

Are you ready to team up with your child to catch bananas and save the world? If so, then grab your mouse and turn to CodeMonkey. This game uses bright colors and fun graphics to get kids excited about programming. Unlike other games, CodeMonkey has different offerings for parents ($39 per year), homeschool groups of five students or less, and classrooms of more than 20 students. This way the content is tailored exactly to your use and needs.   

Code Avengers

Code Avengers is going global and impressing parents and teachers around the world. Most recently, 91 teachers in South Africa were introduced to the tools by the Code Avengers team at a local conference. Code Avengers allows kids to focus on particular topics like computer science, game development, JavaScript, and Python. This way your children can focus on what interests them and keep their programming lessons fun.

A young girl programming on her laptop

Vidcode

This online learning tool is specifically geared toward teenage girls to develop their love of computer science through art. Vidcode taps into popular trends by letting students create Snapchat and Instagram filters while breaking lessons into bite-sized tutorials that keep their attention. Importantly, Vidcode is meant to be inclusive regardless of the learners background or demographics. Today they’re creating memes; tomorrow these programmers could be changing the world.

Hopscotch: Creative Coding

Hopscotch was created to make software development so easy even kids can do it. Peer-reviewed lesson plans cater to kids in grades 3 to 8 and introduce coding, software development, and the creation process. Of course, if you and your child don’t want to follow lesson plans closely, you can simply download the app and play games with blocks, fruit, and robots as a light-hearted introduction to programming.  

The Alice Project

Developed by the Carnegie Mellon research group, The Alice Project uses 3D visuals and Alice in Wonderland graphics to introduce the basics of programming. The creators understand that diving into the world of coding can feel like talking to a Cheshire cat or playing croquet with the Queen of Hearts, so they made something that is easy to use for students starting in middle school and working through the university level. With Alice, no one has to feel lost in Wonderland when they’re learning to code.

Lightbot

Lightbot provides programming puzzles for kids of all ages. So far, more than 20 million kids have played the games and learned how to solve puzzles with programming. Like some of the other games on this list, Lightbot is a soft-teaching game. This means kids will play it without realizing they’re learning. They’ll have so much fun solving puzzles they won’t care there are lessons involved.

Stencyl

More than 500,000 developers have used Stencyl to create their own games and apps. This tool is ideal for beginner game developers who understand the basic principles of programming. The software does the heavy lifting so game creators can focus on executing their visions. Parents and kids can team up to create an amazing game that might get featured on the Stencyl website.  

Pocket Code

Pocket Code, made by creators Catrobat, allows community members to create their own games and learn programming along the way. To date, there are more than 36,000 programs and 624,000 downloads. Some of the most popular games include Tic-Tac-Toe, Minions, and Alien Attack. This entire site is incredibly kid-friendly.

A father and son learn programming

Run Marco! By Allcancode

The developers behind Allcancode, which strives to create educational programming games for kids, launched Run Marco!, a coding adventure around the world. This game has been translated into 26 languages and new chapters are always around the corner. Upcoming adventures include Jungle and Ancient Temple explorations, which keep kids coming back and playing the game.    

Code Kingdoms

Also based in the UK, Code Kingdoms is a free game that uses JavaScript to allow kids to create their own Minecraft Mods and learn programming. If your kid is obsessed with Minecraft, this tool can help them explore their interest in an educational way. Code Kingdoms is meant for ages 8 to 14, but younger kids who are already familiar with Minecraft might enjoy the tools as well.

Bloxels

Bloxels is another Minecraft-like game that helps kids develop their own video games and share them with the community. Bloxels is based on the idea that kids can make video games without a strong coding background. This is what makes it a great activity for parents and children together. Parents who aren’t familiar with coding can pick up the basics while they’re playing with their kids.  

Lissa Explains it All

Lissa Explains it All offers HTML help just for kids. It has been one of the top online tutorials on the web for the past 20 years, and keeps bringing kids back with its bright colors and engaging content. Sign up for Lissa’s email list, which has more than 33,000 subscribers or ask her questions to get help with your HTML basics. She’s here to help you learn!

Kids Ruby

Like the name sounds, this website was created with the goal of teaching kids how to program Ruby on Rails. Through Kids Ruby, children can play around and make games using real code. The website is open to contributors, so tech-savvy parents can also create their own games and submit them to the website to help kids learn. The whole family can explore Ruby on Rails and get creative.   

Waterbear

Waterbear offers tools for kids who want to learn programming and need help solving coding problems along the way. This website encourages kids to practice art and get creative with what they want to do. It really taps into the fun part of coding and makes kids want to learn instead of trying to focus on the technical aspects of creation.

GameSalad

GameSalad gives students an opportunity to learn computer science through game creation. Many teachers use this tool to help kids create their own games related to various lessons plans. If you’re looking for activities to try with your kids, consider teaming up as a family to create a few computer games. Together you can learn the principles of game creation while making something new.